Opinionated, ambitious, and unashamedly sensitive, singer-songwriter Yasmin Coe joined The Mancunion to discuss her January headline gig at YES, her emotionally-loaded songwriting, Manchester’s indie scene, and her dream celebrity dinner party.
JA: How are you feeling about the gig last week? What’s it been like for you since the show?
YC: Just a lot of feelings of love, really. I feel like the whole time I was on stage I genuinely couldn’t quite believe how many people were there, and how many people turned up. I felt so much love from everyone who came – all the support artists, everybody involved. I think a lot of people came together to make it a really nice night. I felt so happy, and I still feel super happy now.
JA: Has it given you a newfound sense of inspiration, perhaps?
YC: Oh God, yeah. I feel like, even if I’m super happy with what’s happened at a gig, I’m still a massive perfectionist. I just want to keep doing more things with the music. This is only scratching the surface of what I want to do.
JA: Can you tell me a bit about your single ‘No Hope’?
YC: So, basically, when I moved to uni… and I moved here when we were in lockdown… I ended up spending so much more time just playing guitar and listening to loads of different music. The more I started playing guitar, the more I started to really experiment with things. I wrote the riff for ‘No Hope’ in January last year, so it’s pretty much a year old now. I was like, “bloody hell, did I just play that?” [laughs]. I was just messing around, but I thought, “maybe I am getting better at this guitar stuff?”. So I wrote the riff, and the song just came very easily to be honest. Lyrically, it all made a lot of sense. And then, I did my first proper gig in Manchester – a year to the date of the headline – and I ended on ‘No Hope’. I stood there thinking, “this could definitely go wrong ‘cos the riff’s really difficult, and it’s literally just me there on the stage… sod it, let’s just try it” [laughs]. Everybody loved it.
JA: So it was kind of birthed out of circumstance, then? Do you think there was something there between you and that audience at that given time that lit a spark?
YC: Yeah, totally. Musically, it was different to anything I’d done before. Following the path of that song, it’s been the direction I’ve taken my other songs in since. […] I felt really assured in that song when it was written, and then when it came to picking a first single, the producer Joel asked me to send over some demos [laughs]. He immediately just said to me “‘No Hope’ is the single”. The trajectory of that song has always been there… like, it was the first song that I did something different with.
JA: Now, I don’t have the lyrics in front of me, but from what I can remember, the lyrics are melancholy, to say the least. Would you say that you’re a pessimist in real life?
YC: [laughs] I think it’s more of a songwriting thing because I feel like I’m maybe one of the happiest people you could come across. Not to big myself up! Though, then again, I don’t really big myself up enough. Look, I really want to bring positivity to people, but I also know that – for me at least – I’ve been through so many bad things and yet I still maintain being a nice person, so I feel like my outlet is through these songs. I know a lot of people have gone through the same stuff that I’ve gone through. The lyrics may seem pessimistic, but I can still look at myself as a positive person. It’s my only outlet for dealing with everything else.
JA: It seems like a really healthy way of dealing with angst.
YC: Yeah, I’m very happy with my life and I’m so grateful for everyone around me, but I have every right to be an arsehole – but I’m not [laughs]. The lyrics are my only outlet. I want people to be able to engage with them. It’s like sad-happy music, isn’t it?
JA: I wanted to give you a bit of an opportunity to discuss the lyrics of your other songs – could you tell me about the themes you’re exploring at the moment?
YC: So, the opening track of the set, and what’s gonna be the next single, is called ‘Doubt’. It’s kind of a reflection on getting into repetitive routines in your daily life and just pretending you’re fine. Pretty much just what we’ve been talking about! When you act like you’re fine, but you’re definitely not. Pretending you’re happy with your situations and just kind of existing through them. That one is maybe a bit separate to the rest of them… the others are just love stories, really, in all honesty! I think I’ve just had my heart broken a good few times. I’ve had people be awful to me, and it’s my way of expressing that. I’m happy now, but I can still pull lyrics out of awful situations from the past.
JA: Do you feel a sense of healing through doing that?
YC: Yeah, absolutely. It’s saying the things you wouldn’t necessarily find the opportunity to say to people. Every single song I’ve got is about personal experience. I haven’t made anything up, but I feel like people can relate to these personal experiences with their own stuff, y’know? I’ve got this song called ‘Expected As Much’ and it’s about when you know what someone’s like, but you still try your luck with them… and then the audience goes, like, “oh yeah!” [laughs]. They get it. Individual experiences that we’ve all navigated before.
JA: Going back to your gig at YES, I felt like the night was a kind of assertion of Manchester’s local indie scene. I mean, it’s always had a good one [laughs]. Would you say that Manchester itself is at all relevant to your songs? Or, perhaps the North in general?
YC: Oh God, yeah! I’m from Hull, so I’m obviously a fan of everything in the North. I’ve not been to the South that much… like, at all. Everything for me is from being up here. I went to so many gigs when I was growing up in Hull. It’s actually got a great scene, you just have a lot of bands struggling to get out of Hull; people don’t engage with it from the outer-look of things. Y’know what? I’d kind of say the same for Manchester. Some of the most talented people I know are from the Manchester music scene, but British music feels very London-centric to me […] I feel like we’re doing a good job of trying to change that at the minute.
JA: My sister’s a 17-year-old singer-songwriter… would you have any advice for young, aspiring girls wanting to get involved in music like her?
YC: I’d say it’s absolutely okay to be vulnerable in what you do. Everything that I’ve done musically is me being a vulnerable person. We [women] are faced with so many things – too many things to cover – but I feel like it’s okay to allow yourself to take your time and be vulnerable in the art that you create. But you also have to acknowledge that a lot of men will get more attention in music, which is really annoying, but that doesn’t mean that you are not good. So many young women are amazing; it just might take a little longer for them. It isn’t fair, but it’s the way that it is. It doesn’t demote you as an artist at all. Take the time and you will be seen… it will be worth it. There’s just a lot of men standing in the way.
JA: Okay, one last question. This is one I came up with when you said you wanted a stupid icebreaker in the YES green room. So, if you could invite five celebrities from the music world (who are still alive) around for tea, who would you invite and why?
YC: Oh my gosh [laughs]. That’s a big one! Right… I’ve been obsessing over Julia Jacklin recently, so I’d invite her. Also because I love Australian accents. I feel like it’d be silly to inviter Alex Turner, but he was one of my original inspirations… I’d invite him just so I could say he was there, really [laughs]. I’d invite Paul McCartney just to say he was there, but again, The Beatles were one of my favourite bands growing up. And an artist that I’ve been lapping up at the minute is Confidence Man, and they’re a couple, so they’re my other two. I don’t know what the dynamic would be like with all five of those people there – I think Alex Turner and Paul McCartney would pretend to be friends even if they’re just not. There’d be beef. It’d be a fun meal, nonetheless.
It was an absolute pleasure to interview Yasmin Coe – give her a listen, a follow, and support any upcoming musical ventures that she may have. After all, a songwriter so bubbly and yet so angst-ridden is hard to come by.
You can listen to ‘No Hope’ below: